Oakland Roots play Saturday, March 19, 2022 at 4:00 p.m. Pacific at AutoZone Park in Memphis, Tennessee against Eastern Conference side Memphis 901. The match will be broadcast on KTVU Plus and ESPN+. The Roots announced this week a number of pub partnerships, which means at minimum the game will presumably be broadcast there. I saw Arsenal win an FA Cup semifinal at CommonWealth in 2017, so the luck there is pretty good. That said, I live walking distance from Mad Oak and they have covered outdoor space, so I will probably be there.
Memphis 901 are a newer USL Championship team, formed in 2018 and debuting in the league in 2019. Memphis’s first season was pretty catastrophic, going 9-7-18, good enough for a 15th place position in the Eastern Conference. That team was led in goals by Brandon Allen, who is alleged to have scored 10 goals. In the shortened 2020 season, Memphis put up a 4-7-4 record behind lead scorer Cal Jennings.
Ugh, this is actually kind of cool. I am skeptical of the crown referring to both Elvis and B.B. King. Commit to it just being B.B. King. You are a USL team in the south, your suburban following is going to be limited anyway. Memphis’s kits are sponsored by Terminix, which I have nothing bad to say about: absolute USL Championship gold. I’m a little jealous.
Memphis 901 are owned primarily by Peter B. Freund, which is a nom de guerre I have used during various unsavory episodes in my life.
Freund’s ownership group also owns Dagenham & Redbridge, the third best team involved with a game broadly called an “East London Derby.” (We absolutely do not acknowledge Millwall on this blog)
Also owning some kind of interest in the ownership group is NY Metro Stars legend Tim Howard, who claims on the website to spend most of his time in Memphis, but I see basically weekly on NBC broadcasting I think from Stamford, Connecticut. What a web of lies. Weirdly, he still admits to being from New Jersey, so why lie about the other stuff? I am not willing to dig any further to see where Freund’s money comes from, so let’s assume the default USL ownership prediction (second son of regional used car magnate).
Their field, AutoZone Park, is primarily a baseball stadium, hosting the Memphis Redbirds, the AAA affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals (also owned by FreundGruppe). I went to a game at AutoZone park on a trip to visit my sister when she was in school in Memphis. It’s a great ballpark. The fans there are easily a lucky call-up away from being the best fans in baseball.
Memphis 901 went 14-8-10 in 2021, good enough for a 3rd place finish in the Central Division. Just over 40% of 901’s goals were scored by Kyle Murphy who, unfortunately for the <sigh> Bluff City Mafia, now plays for Miami FC. Memphis were having a middling season, but closed the way they needed to, beating division rivals Indy 11 and FC Tulsa twice each in the last two months, plus taking a cheeky win over division-winner Louisville City. Memphis 901’s season came to an end with a disappointing performance away to Charlotte Independence, who appears to have outplayed them basically start to finish.
Hey! We have form to talk about!
Memphis 901’s season managed to get off to a worse start than the Roots’.
Memphis newcomer, but four-year USL veteran, centerback Graham Smith picked up two yellow cards in 13 minutes in the first half, on either side of a Phillip Goodrum penalty saved by Riverhounds’ keeper Chase Vosvick. Smith’s tackle to earn the second was absolutely insane for a player already on a yellow in the 34th minute. Not sure he intended the foul, but a wildly irresponsible decision from a centerback. Memphis held out another 10 minutes, but Dane Kelly put the Riverhounds up in first-half stoppage time, and Pittsburgh would add two more in the second half. Memphis had 5 shots on target and 50% possession, which is impressive for playing two thirds of the game with ten elevenths of your players, but it’s hard to find much silver lining in a 3-0 home defeat.
Hard to believe they found 2:45-worth of highlights form this game. The Roots’ offense was not ready yet. The Roots accumulated six fouls for every shot they took, plus a complementary extra foul. This is entirely consistent with how the game went for the Roots.
Matias Fissore had apparently picked up a minor injury in practice. No one at the blog expected Nane to start as a loan holding midfielder, and sure enough, there was real trouble moving the ball from back to front.
Azocar and Dennis both showed some great individual endeavor, but it never looked like any of the forwards or attacking midfielders were on the same page. Fifty seconds into first-half stoppage time, Mfeka had a brilliant opportunity out of nowhere and managed to miss from slightly goal-side of the penalty spot. Very little else of interest happened.
Players to Watch
Derek Dodson – #14 – Dodson was Memphis’ big off-season acquisition, and the player that Lawrence Dockery of the 901 Soccer Podcast identified as his player to watch on this week’s RootsPod. Dodson hails from Aurora, Illinois, and played college ball at Georgetown. Dodson was drafted by Orlando City, but released after one season that he spent on loan at Hartford Athletic, where he scored 5. Dodson is 6’0″, 23-years-old, and per FBREF (which is right about 60% of the time), he lined up last week as the left-sided forward in a 4-2-3-1.
Laurent Kissiedou – #11 – Kissiedou plays as a central attacking midfielder, and made the USL’s official team of the week three times last season, including one time as the player of the week. The 23-year-old Ivorian played for a couple of years for Atlanta United 2, and a season for Charleston Battery. Kissiedou scored four and assisted five last season, including two goals in a 3-0 win over Memphis’ conference rival Tulsa and providing two assists in a 3-0 win over conference rival Indy Eleven. Hopefully he’s garbage in interleague play.
Rece Buckmaster – #19 – I had to take this opportunity to be the person to tell you there is a person named “Rece Buckmaster.” He’s a rightback who has played on some other USL teams, blah blah.
Niall Logue – #50 – 26-year-old centerback Logue is the heart of 901’s backline, or at least, will be on Saturday because Graham Smith got himself sent off. Logue played at an Ohio land grant institution, before playing for a couple of Irish clubs, then making the move to FC Tucson, where he played in 2020 on a team featuring our new lad Charlie Dennis. Logue signed for El Paso last season, but moved in late June to Memphis 901 where he made 21 appearances. Logue is 6’4″ and, most importantly, from Derry.
Score and Lineup Predictions
Jon Morrissey figures Memphis to have a pretty good keeper and attacking midfield, and to be between mediocre and terrible everywhere else, but especially lousy at fullback and central mid. That will hopefully give the Roots’ offense an opportunity to grow into the game (and season). Roots’ social media has shown Karlsson in practice. I seriously hope that the long-term plan is not a false 9, and I am predicting them to throw Karlsson right into the fire, because it is what I want to happen. Ultimately, I can’t be too pessimistic this early in the season, but after last week, I take 1-1 on the road and another week of figuring out the offense. I am projecting that the team is cautious about Klimenta after his early exit last week.
0-0: Now that he’s here, I think Karlsson goes straight into the starting XI. Long term, that is the right move, but for an offense that is having trouble clicking, I predict there will be some short-term pain. It’ll take another week for things to gel. But I don’t see Memphis offering much of a threat either, so I think this one ends the same way it starts, nil-nil.
There are two notable players to start with when predicting the Roots’ Starting XI; Matias Fissore and Óttar Magnús Karlsson. The veteran midfielder apparently picked up a minor knock during training and my guess is that he’s set to make his season-debut. Karlsson, meanwhile, has been with the team this week and was clearly brought in with the intent to start. If he hasn’t earned the starting job, it’ll be back to Lindo Mfeka up top. No changes for my back line, but there wouldn’t be any surprise if Daniel Barbir got a look.
Benny Diaz’s addition from Club Tijuana on Thursday certainly turned some heads, as if Taylor Bailey’s season-opener start wasn’t surprising enough. Dissimilar to Fissore missing last week due to injury, the sense is that Bailey outright won the job over Paul Blanchette, while the club plans on carrying three keepers. It’s a comparable move to when the Roots loaned in GK Luis Barraza from NYCFC in May of last year—which only lasted a couple of weeks—so Oakland shouldn’t be moving one of its two contracts in Bailey or Blanchette. Diaz enters with a market value of $330,000 and will be in-line to start. But has he won the role already? Until proven otherwise, I’m going Bailey.
As for the score, I’m sticking by my words on RootsPod with a 2-1 Oakland win. I think the wheels get turning in Game 2 as Juan Guerra continues taking steps toward determining his favorite Starting XI.
Up the Roots
Up the Roots